DB380 ZA66XX First Range Report


October 14, 2010, 05:42 PM
I picked up a DB380 for $350. Sadly, that price is cheap for the part of Washington where I live. Unfortunately, I mixed up the serial numbers and didn't realize it's actually a relatively early model. Oops. Once I figure out my mistake, I hit the range with some trepidation as the early DB380's don't have a good reputation.

Using PMC Bronze, the only range ammo the gun shop sold, I slide the magazine home and try to rack the slide. The DB is so small and the recoil spring so tight, I can barely do it. Misfeed. The slide is halfway back and I can see the brass peeking out off the chamber. My bad, bad rack. Tap, rack again. It feeds. Trying to grip the tiny weapon, I take careful aim. The sights are painted sloppily (the front side has too much paint and one of the back sights is missing paint) but they're visible and much better than the tiny bumps on most pocket guns. Strangely, the front sight is rectangular rather than square, which just seems weird.

I pull the trigger. It's got a pretty smooth feel, a little "Glock" straight back more than a pivoting Sig feel but it goes on forever, like my finger's driving down the interstate. Finally the hammer drops. Boom! The little guy kicks hard, harder than the Keltec P3AT but it doesn't hurt as badly, probably because my hands fit a little better. Uh-oh. Failure to eject. Tap rack. Misfeed. Drop the magazine, rack again, feeds fine. And yes, I scramble around at my feet for the ejected bullet -- 380 auto ain't cheap.

Finger takes another long vacation. Shell casing flies straight up and hits me on top of the head. The slide is stuck back. Failure to feed. Tap rack. Partial double feed. Drop the mag, rack, bullet gets stuck somehow. Turn the gun upside down and rack, bullet falls out. I'm not happy.

It gets worse. Next shot, failure to eject. I rack the slide and realize the casing is caught on something on the slide -- when the slide moves, the casing goes with it. Drop the magazine. Rack the slide and shake. The casing is caught on something. With no slide lock, I'm left trying to dislodge the casing while my right is holding the gun, the left holding the slide open. Trying to move the casing with a free finger, it just pivots. And that recoil spring is strong along with the fact that the gun is tiny so I can't get much purchase. Holding the slide open for 15 seconds I still can't shake the casing loose. My hands are getting tired. Aargh! Finally, I turn around and ask the guys standing behind me to help. Holding the slide open the guy takes his finger and just pokes the brass downward -- it pivots and finally falls into the mag well.

Damn. I take another shot. It ejects and feeds! Finally. I partially release the trigger until it clicks then pull again. Click. Must be empty: I couldn't count all the shots and manually ejected bullets. I instinctively drop the mag and rack the slide to make sure it's empty. A bullet flies out. It's a new gun -- I'm not sure if it light striked or I didn't release the trigger all the way. Yikes, this is bad.

Out of desperation, I run to a nearby gun shop to see if they have any other ammo. They've only got Magtechs. I buy a box, hit the range again, and everything works fine. Except, on the last shot nothing happens again. Instinctively drop mag, rack and bullet comes flying out. I must not have reset... again.

Things are not looking so good for the DB380. For starters, it absolutely chokes on PMC Bronze. It's cheap ammo, but it isn't exactly Russian stuff. Second, the slide is small and the spring is too strong. My forearms and hands were exhausted after trying to rack the thing so many times. Third, the lack of a slide lock makes tough jams very hard to clear. This wouldn't be a problem if it didn't jam so much! Fourth, the trigger reset is indistinct or partially fails sometimes.

Overall, I'm disappointed with the DB380. After some research online, I've discovered that the recoil spring gets easier to move after some break in and that the bad trigger reset is possibly caused by burs in the manufacturing that can be polished out.

It's too bad, because when it works the DB380 is much more fun to shoot than any similar pocket guns. I guess that makes it a fun range gun more than a reliable backup.

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October 14, 2010, 05:52 PM
What's the supposed break-in period for this gun? Couple hundred rounds?

Welcome to THR.

October 14, 2010, 06:04 PM

Man, that's a rough start. I appreciate your honesty. Ironically, I just picked up my Taurus TCP .380 today. Will be a while before I can get to the range, but I may post on your thread to see how bad/good my sample is compared to the DB380.

I don't like Taurus - at all. But this TCP has a really sweet trigger pull, butter smooth and very light for a DA. Eveything looks really good, but the proof is in the shooting. So we'll see.

Good luck with the DB380. Let us know if you can straighten it out or have to send it back.

October 14, 2010, 11:04 PM
Reminds me of when I got my first 380 pistol, a Grendel P10, back in about 1988 or so. The main difference would be having no detachable magazine in the Grendel to drop. The Grendel unctioned about as well the first few trips but, in all fairness, I was in the habit of buying ammo on the cheap, and was using strictly CCI Blazer stuff (the old aluminum-cased rounds.) I did finally get that gun to work by polishing the feed ramp a little. It would actually make a fine defensive pistol now, as it always performs flawlessly with quality ammo for the first three or four ten-round loads. After that, it becomes dirt-sensitive, but that's not much of an issue in a gun that has no rapid-reload option.
I like the looks of the Diamondback, but have not yet gotten to lay hands on one. Don't feel the need yet for one in my arsenal, but like to keep my options open. It's rare that my attire makes my Kel-Tec PF9 to big, but it has happened..

October 15, 2010, 12:16 AM
Mine too has what I call the "clicks". The trigger will reset but every time the trigger is pulled all I get is a click.

For some reason the striker is not being pulled back far enough, or is not being allowed to move forward.

It's been back to the factory once, and will be heading back again soon. I'm pushing them hard to replace it with a newer serial numbered one, but i'm not holding out hope.

This would be almost the ideal .380acp pocket gun if it would work.

November 3, 2010, 02:25 PM
This is most unfortunate. I keep reading a lot of reviews like this of the db380. I love the design of the gun, well except for the lack of a slide lock which makes clearing some malfunctions twice as hard. Maybe it's just typical new gun issues. I'm in the market for a new .380, but I think I'll wait for this one, until it is clear they have it together.

The taurus tcp and kahr p380 look promising (if I fee like coughing up kahr money).

November 3, 2010, 09:01 PM
I am looking at getting a Diamondback DB380 pretty soon. From what I've read, there are a lot of problems with the early models. However, it seems that much fewer people have problem with later models (I believe ZC3xxx and later). I love the way the gun feels and how comfortable it is (much better than Kel-Tec P-3AT or Ruger LCP). Hopefully I won't have any problems; but I'm going to be very careful in making sure I get a late model number.

I would recommend sending it in to Diamondback, obviously. I've heard of more than one occasion where they will send you a new, later model pistol. That would be the ultimate fix, as it seems like people with ZAxxxx models send them in multiple time, with only some people getting their old guns back actually fixed.

November 8, 2010, 11:35 PM
I just got my zaxxxx back from the factory about 2 weeks ago. They replaced the trigger bar and the extractor. So far so good. About 150 rounds through it. No problems at all in the last 120. I hope it is ok. We'll see.

November 9, 2010, 12:13 AM
Just got my new ZD24XX serial numbered gun via UPS today.

Glad that DB replaced my ZAXXXX, there was no way I could ever have trusted that gun.

November 9, 2010, 10:24 AM
Please keep us updated guys on how your knew or repaired guns are doing. I plan to get one myself once I start hearing better things about them.

November 19, 2010, 05:39 PM
Follow Up: Not wanting to "break" the gun in using expensive 380 ammo on someone's advice I instead racked the slide like 200 times. Ouch that was painful. The gun is tiny and the recoil spring is tough (note: The nickel plated slide is even harder to rack as it's super slippery. Don't get that version of the DB380.)

I switched to Fiocchi Leadless. 100 rounds, no problems at all. No FTE, no FTF. Some beginning shooters even gave it a try -- no FTE, no FTF. Worked like a charm.

The only remaining problem is chambering the first round: Even my experienced shooter friends had problems, not racking fast enough which leads to a misfeed. I've tried different grips: overhand, pinch, etc. and can't seem to find a consistent way to rack it. Worse, since the thing doesn't have a slide lock, you HAVE to manually rack at least once per magazine.

If you're using this as a defensive pistol carry one in the chamber (duh, you should be anyway) and hope you get the bad guy in 7 shots.

And one final complaint: the gun case doesn't have space for the clip. You have to carry the gun with the clip inserted. Not a big deal, but I'm anal about safety and would prefer my unloaded gun not have its clip in.

November 19, 2010, 11:16 PM
That jamming after chambering the first round will probably go away once the recoil spring gets worn in. My kahr pm9 did that for the first 200 rounds or so, not that it was a big deal, one tap to the back of the slide and it chambered it anyway.

Next time you work the slide in by racking it wear some work gloves, it's save the skin on your fingers from much wear. That's what I had to do with my pm9 to help it relax a bit. They come tighter than a bear trap from the company. Thanks for taking the time to post a follow up.

January 5, 2011, 02:14 PM
Thanks for everyone's suggestions (and condolences. =)) Here's one final report with the gun decently broken in:

I fired a box of 50 Fiocchi Leadless. From bench rest, the gun shoots about 2 inches low. The sights are only windage adjustable, so I'd have to get a smith to fix them. I finally settled on the "pinch" method of racking and can now do it consistently. I can fire fairly tight groups but... I got a series of failure to feeds with the last seven rounds. Tap rack had it firing again. The problem seems to be that the feed ramp is very steep and doesn't like the truncated cone leadless ammo.

As I was putting the gun away, I noticed I was smearing blood all over the place. The freaking TRIGGER bit me. That's right, the bottom corners of the trigger are actually SHARP. The kick combined with the small trigger had my trigger finger sliding down to the bottom of the trigger which cut a sliver of skin off.

The gun is still more fun than a Ruger LCP, but as a concealed carry weapon, I'd have to put a couple hundred rounds of good ammo through it before I was confident with it.

January 5, 2011, 02:22 PM
The LCP bit my finger too. I infinitely prefer the SIG 238 to that LCP. My 238 will shoot 3'' groups at 12 yards, while the LCP has "Minute-of-Bison" accuracy. :) Plus, the LCP's sights are virtually non-existent, while the SIG has a great set of Tritium 3 dots.

January 5, 2011, 11:23 PM
"Minute of Bison" LOL!

I'm usually minute of Raccoon with mine, probably minute of bison if shooting left handed though.

Jim in S.A.
January 6, 2011, 09:15 PM
I had much the same experience my first time out. And my second time. BUT, after racking the slide a lot, proper lubrication, and a proper diet (it's definitely a picky eater) it's come around to the point where I'm feeling confident enough to carry it.

I don't remember how many rounds I've fired, somewhere in the area of 300 or so, but as I've done so, the reset problems have dropped to zero, the slide is easier to rack, and overall I'm pleased with it.

Mine is a ZC13xx so it's somewhere in the middle of production. I frequent the Diamondback forum where I've commiserated with fellow DB owners. Between us, we've come up with some solutions, but quite honestly some have disposed of their DBs out of pure frustration. So though I'm happy with mine, a lot of folks haven't been as lucky.

I really like the pistol, and hope Diamondback can overcome what I hope are "teething pains."

January 7, 2011, 06:23 AM
I tried to use PMC Bronze to break in a new Ruger SR9, back when they first came out. My experience with it was just like yours with the DB. I've since had people tell me that PMC Bronze is a low recoil range choice. Great for a well broke in gun, lousy for a new tighter gun. I switched to WWB and the SR9 worked fine.
I hope you get the DB working the way it should and it is a trustworthy pistol for you. I always wish the best for any American company putting out a good product and, hopefully, DB will do well.

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